And So It Goes

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Family History

Edward Czaja Passes …

Edward Czaja - Labor Day 2008

There aren’t a lot of people that have the opportunity to spend 40 years with their grandfather.  I was lucky enough to do just that.  This morning, Edward Czaja passed away.

Up until the last few years, when his health, and eventually his mind, began to fail him, my grandfather played a major role in my life.  He was there for every personal milestone and was as much a part of our immediate family as one can be.  As an avid sports fan, he was very influential to me.

Back in the late seventies he planted the seeds that would blossom into my becoming a Syracuse Orange fan.  He was an avid supporter of Syracuse University football and basketball.  We would watch (or listen) to the games together and he would go on and on about players and moments he witnessed in Orange history.  From being an usher at Archibold Stadium to witnessing the last basketball game at Manley Field House.  From the first game at the Carrier Dome to the National Title run.  He was there.  We cheered together huddled around a radio at the kitchen table on West Matson Avenue in 1987 when the football team went undefeated and we were both heart broken when Keith Smart hit that last second shot in the NCAA Title game.  We sat in the last row of bleachers in the Carrier Dome as Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins crushed the Orange and he took me to several media day events to meet the players.

Ed was a Chiefs and Toronto Blue Jay fan.  He would see Babe Ruth in his final days and together we watched the Chiefs retire Hank Sauer’s jersey.  He took me to see my first Major League game featuring my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, play the Mets at Shea Stadium and the next day we went on to watch the Toronto Blue Jays whomp the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.  It takes a lot of courage to walk around New York City wearing St. Louis and Toronto baseball hats!  Together we visited Cooperstown and watched a ball game at Double Day Field.

We spent countless hours playing cards head to head, playing Pinochle with my grandmother and Aunt Theresa or with my parents, and of course in the family pitch games throughout the years.  We played chess together and against my Aunt Diane.  He was an avid bowler and accomplished golfer, both of which we did together as well.  For the record though, golf is not, was not and never will be a sport that I’d be interested in — “no gramp, I don’t want your golf clubs”.  Still, he was good at all of these in his prime.

Of course, not every moment was roses.  Some of his actions made me cringe in embaressment.  For example, on the golf course, he would bring extra garbage bags to collect the bottles and cans left at each of the holes.  At times, this could be a considerable amout of cans and by time we finished the 18th hole, I’d feel like the theme music of Sanford and Son would be playing in my head as we made our way to the club house with these Hefty bags full of cans tied to our golf bags.  I remember one time we had arrived at a hole where a couple of golfers in their mid thirties were getting ready to tee off.  One of the gentlemen set his beer down on the bench as he pulled his driver out of his bag and approached the ball.  My grandfather went to the bench, emptied out the remainder of his beer and put the can in his “returns bag”.  The golfer watched his ball sail off the tee, returned the club to his bag and then began looking around for his beer.  Yeah, at 14 years old, I wished that someone had just run me over with their golf cart at that moment.

Over the last several years, all of this had been taken from him.  He no longer could play or even watch any of these games.  He no longer could drive.  He no longer remembered any of the trips we took together.  He had forgotten the athletes he idolized and over the last few weeks he no longer even recognized me.  As sad as it is to see him pass, I’m grateful that he can finally rest in dignity and in peace — well, my grandmother may have a thing or two to do with the “in peace” part.

The family is working on final arrangements today and I’ll update the information when details have been finalized.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Chuck & Marion Guiles
    (pray4revival2003@yahoo.com)
    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    To Edward Czaja Family
    Our Blessings to Ed’s family. He was a wonderful neighbor and friend. He will be missed. We always enjoyed his visits. Our Grand kids remember him from when they were younger, he was always so kind to them. Every holiday he would have a bag of candy for them. He was a sweet heart. The grand kids called him Mr. Ed. Our Condolences.

    Yvonne Starliper
    (ystarlip@cnyric.org)
    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    Steve and family,
    Sorry to hear of your loss. You must be
    so proud of the great contributions your
    dad made to the military service and as
    a dedicated founding member of his union.
    God bless and stay strong.

    Mother Celine Therese & Community
    (lmmothersuperior@littlesistersofthepoor.org)
    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Our condolences and prayers are with Debbie and family.

    Paul and Rosemarie
    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Dear Diane and Theresa,

    Our thoughts and payers are with you and your family.

    Fondly your meighbors.

    Teresa Stephens
    (tstephens@cnyric.org)
    Monday, January 04, 2010

    So sorry about your father. Thinking of you and your family through this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Patti Neuman
    (pneuman@cnyric.org)
    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Steve and family,
    My thoughts are with you during this time. There is nothing I can say that will help. Hold on to the good memories and remember it is ok to laugh through your tears. Love and hugs, Patti (a.k.a. Kathy)

    Linda Zaleski
    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    My condolences to you and your family, Steve.

    Ralph Lyke
    (solidarity4@aol.com)
    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    I didn’t know Edward; but I wish I did. His story caught my eye as I read that he was a charter member of Local 798, UAW at Rollway Bearing.

    I was doing some research on this union local. It was chartered on January 7, 1950.

    Workers like Edward helped so many other workers who followed him into Rollway–many decades later–who benefited from his organizing work to establish Local 798.

    If Edward had any documents of Local 798, I would be willing to accept them, and donate them to the Onondaga Historical Society. My number is 656-9054.

    Or you can donate them to the Onondaga Historical Society, c/o Pam Priest, Archivist.

    -Ralph Lyke
    2nd Vice President
    Local 624, UAW

    Lisa Chase
    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Steve,
    So sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Lisa

  2. My mother sent me the link to your post. My grandmother, Veronica, is your grandfather’s sister. I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. Your grandfather lead an accomplished life. He sounds like such a dynamic person. You wrote such a lovely tribute to him.

  3. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful testimony to your grandfather, Gary. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. So sorry for your loss, loved what you wrote, and love the picture
    Grandma is taking care of him now, my thoughts are with your entire family

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